Conditions InDepth: Autism

Autism is a complex neurological disorder. It may or may not be noticed during infancy. It is usually identified during early childhood between the ages of 2-6 years. People with autism have difficulty communicating and forming relationships. Autism spectrum disorders include autism, Asperger syndrome , and pervasive developmental disorder. Autism is a lifelong condition that varies in severity depending on the person. Some people with autism need to be cared for their entire life and have other conditions, such as seizures and intellectual disabilities . Others are able to live on their own and work. The exact cause of autism is not known. Researchers have identified the following factors that may increase a person's risk of developing autism:

  • Genetic factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Problems during pregnancy or delivery that could interfere with brain development
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
What are the risk factors for autism?What are the symptoms of autism?How is autism diagnosed?What are the treatments for autism?Are there screening tests for autism?How can I reduce my child's risk of autism?What questions should I ask my doctor?What is it like to live with autism?Where can I get more information about autism?

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June 2015

A meta-analysis found that mothers participating in a prenatal exercise group were less likely to have a large newborn, less likely to need a cesarean section, and no more likely to have a low birthweight baby than those who did not exercise. The study supports proper prenatal care advice which advocates for mothers to exercise during pregnancy if allowed by the physician.

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